Enjoy the outdoors, not the Emergency Room!

You wouldn’t venture out into a blizzard without taking precautions, and you shouldn’t venture out into extremely hot and humid weather without doing so either.

Temperature extremes can be deadly, particularly for babies, children, the elderly, obese people or anyone with a health condition. But even the healthiest among us can fall prey to things like dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. In fact, heat-related illnesses are the most frequent cause of injury treated in emergency rooms during summer months, along with lightning injuries, drowning and sunburn.

How to hydrate

Normally, drinking plain water to thirst is sufficient. But if you’re exerting yourself in hot, humid weather, that might not be enough. Whether you’re working outside or playing sports, any prolonged exertion that causes heavy sweating can get you into trouble. Keep up the plain water, but incorporate a sports drink, too, to replace electrolytes you lose by heavy perspiration. Whatever you do, don’t drink alcohol while dehydrated! And keep in mind that soda and other sweet drinks are not as ideal as plain water. Save the caffeinated drinks for a time when you aren’t sweating heavily.

How cool are you?

If you can take breaks by entering an air conditioned area, do so. If you’re in a situation where that isn’t possible, you can do things like periodically wet your hair, or wet a bandana and place that on your head. Plunging your head under running water will make your whole body feel cooler. Take breaks from exertion and go to a shady area. And dress for the weather! Loose, light-colored clothing and a wide-brimmed hat can help protect you.

What are the differences between heat exhaustion and heat stroke?

Watch for symptoms of heat exhaustion, which can include things like weakness, very heavy perspiration, a weaker pulse, nausea, loss of consciousness and cold, pale, clammy skin. Even more serious is heat stroke, in which the body temperature is elevated above 103 degrees, the heart rate is rapid and the skin is hot and red. Loss of consciousness may occur. If suspected heat exhaustion doesn’t improve after measures like drinking a sports drink and soaking in a cool bath, or if heat stroke is suspected, seek emergency medical attention. A heat stroke can cause organ damage and even death.

The Emergency Room at Culbertson Memorial Hospital is equipped to treat heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Don’t hesitate if you suspect heat stroke!

Make a Splash with Good Water Safety

There’s nothing like a dip to beat summer’s heat. Good water safety practices ensure a good time for all at the water’s edge. Whether pool, beach or even a hot tub, a good offense is the best defense. Learning how to swim is the best way to keep you and your family safe. These tips from the American Red Cross will also help you make water safety a priority:

  • Swim in designated areas supervised by lifeguards.
  • Always swim with a buddy; do not let anyone swim alone, even when there’s a lifeguard.
  • Never leave a young child unattended near water, and do not trust a child’s life to another child.
  • Teach children to always ask permission to go near water.
  • Have young children or inexperienced swimmers wear life jackets around water, but don’t rely on life jackets alone.
  • Establish rules and enforce them. Set limits based on ability. Ban play around drains and suction fittings. Forbid breath-holding contests.
  • Even if you don’t plan on swimming, be careful around natural bodies of water like rivers and lakes. Cold temperatures, currents and underwater hazards can make a fall into the water dangerous.
  • If you go boating, wear a life jacket! Most boating fatalities occur from drowning.
  • Avoid alcohol use. It impairs judgment, balance and coordination and affects swimming and diving skills.

For other tips to enjoy the water while remaining safe, please talk to your Culbertson healthcare provider.

Heading Off Heat Stroke

When the weather heats up, things can get really fun outside, but it’s important to be aware there’s a very real risk, too. Heat stroke claims lives every year, and it’s preventable. When physical activity in hot weather and prolonged exposure to high temperatures cause the body temperature to reach 104°F, heat stroke occurs. Medications, health issues and age can all increase risk – the very young and old are especially vulnerable.

Cramps may be the first sign, but many symptoms can warn of heat stroke. Here’s what to watch for:

  • High body temperature
  • Muscle weakness or cramps
  • No sweating
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Flushing (red skin)
  • Racing heart rate
  • Confusion
  • Rapid or shallow breathing
  • Headache
  • Passing out (or even coma)

Lack of treatment can mean serious complications or even death. You can prevent heat stroke with a few precautions, especially in the hottest part of the day:

  • Wear lightweight, loose and light-colored clothes.
  • Drink lots of fluids.
  • Know whether your medicine makes you more prone.
  • Avoid strenuous activity outside.
  • Take it easy if you have a health issue that puts you at risk.
  • Don’t leave children (or anyone) in parked cars.

For other tips on preventing heat stroke, speak to your Culbertson healthcare provider.

Bike Safety

Use your head; wear a helmet. Bike accidents account for most sports-related emergencies for kids ages 5 to 14. Many can be prevented with a helmet. Having one that fits properly is just as important as wearing it.

  • Look up – if you see the bottom rim, it fits.
  • Check your ears – if the straps form a “V” under your ears when buckled, it fits.
  • Open your mouth – if the helmet hugs your head when you open your mouth, it fits.

Simple Safety Tips

  • Wear bright-colored clothing.
  • Dress for the weather.
  • Never ride with headphones.
  • Use a backpack to carry items.
  • Ride with a friend.
  • Make sure someone knows where you’re going.
  • Make sure tires are properly inflated.
  • Use lights at night.

Rules of the Road

  • Look both ways before crossing traffic.
  • Obey traffic signs and signals – just like other vehicles.
  • Follow lane markings – don’t turn left from the right lane or go straight in a “right turn only.”
  • Scan the road behind you – look over your shoulder without losing balance or swerving. Consider using rear-view mirrors.
  • Keep both hands ready for braking.
  • Use hand signals to advise others of your intentions.
  • Choose the best way to turn left – like an auto: signal to move into the left turn lane, then turn left; like a pedestrian, ride straight to the far-side crosswalk, then walk your bike across.
  • Make eye contact with drivers.
  • Watch for road hazards – like sewer grates, gravel, ice, sand or debris. Cross railroad tracks at right angles.

Building a First Aid Toolbox for Summer

child playing at the beach

It’s nearly summer! Time for fun at the beach, the playground and the ball field… and unfortunately, also time for bug bites, cuts, scrapes and sunburn. To make sure your children enjoy summer as safely as possible, stock your first aid toolbox so you’re ready for anything summer can dish out. Keep it in your car so it’s always available and consider stocking separate kits for each family vehicle. If you haven’t checked your kit recently, be sure you have plenty of the most-used items, like adhesive bandages, and that none of the medications have expired. Replace and replenish as necessary.

Starting from scratch? We’ve put together a list of things to keep stocked and handy. Naturally, if your child has special medical considerations, such as severe allergies or a chronic illness, you’ll also want to make sure you’re equipped to handle those situations. Check with your doctor if you’re not sure. Ready-made first aid kits are available too. Check to see what items are included, and be prepared to add items as needed.

Start with this list and customize to fit your family’s needs:

  • Gauze, tape, adhesive bandage assortment
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Benadryl
  • EpiPen (for those with a history of severe allergic reactions)
  • Extra prescription medications, such as an inhaler, where needed
  • Ibuprofen and/or acetaminophen. (If you have a child young enough to require liquid, make sure you have it in that form, along with tablets for older children.)
  • Dramamine
  • Sunblock
  • Bug spray
  • Hydrocortisone ointment
  • Baby wipes (handy for quick clean-ups for any age)
  • Lip balm
  • Alcohol wipes
  • ACE bandage
  • Small scissors
  • Tweezers